TechCrunch Disrupt SF Women In Tech Panel - Where's The Black Girl?

On Tuesday, TechCrunch Disrupt SF will host a panel that is provocative not just by its title, but by the panelists. It is simply called "Women in Tech" and consists of, according to the agenda, Lauren Leto (Bnter), Leila Chirayath Janah(Samasource), Sara Chipps (Girl Developer IT), Cyan Banister (Zivity), Rachel Sklar (, Michelle Greer (SimpleSpeak Media).

Now, the idea behind the panel, this blogger assumes, is to talk about the lack of women in tech. It's a subject my friend Mediaite Editor-At-Large Rachel Sklar has really placed a laser focus on of late, starting a blog called "Changing The Ratio" and poking at TechCrunch Founder and Editor Michael Arrington for forming an event in TechCrunch Disrupt she feels is not inclusive of women.

Rachel's efforts have landed her a well-deserved invitation to be on the panel that meets on Tuesday morning.

So, I wondered, who's on the panel, other than Rachel? The answer, several white girls and one of apparent Indian (Asian) decent.

Where's the black and the Latino women?

The point is, talk about diversity should not stop at one group of people, because that method of thinking doesn't help solve the overall problem. Moreover, the discussion becomes "white male centric" - in other words, "Why aren't we as (white) women in this group of people we perceive as mostly white male?"

Even with the increasing diversity of men in tech as evident by the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon, the idea is that it's still a white guy's game. But the people who complain about this don't seem to realize they're excluding others themselves. So what we get are panels on Women in Tech, Blacks in Tech (at SXSW), and so on, but no discussion of how to really alter this picture before us.

The problem is there's a lack of understanding of the need to think in a racially and sexually diverse way. It's not enough to just have a panel of, frankly, hot almost all-white women (was that Michael's doing?) talking about the issue, but to ask is that panel itself diverse? The answer is no.

So are we really solving the problem, or talking around it?

We're talking around it.

Diversity-think must be in the DNA of a group or culture, period. It's all about making everyone feel that they're included in a discussion, in other words that you're thinking about them. What we forget is that everyone want to be heard. They want to know if you're affirming their value by paying attention to them. There's nothing wrong with that and it's human nature to want that.

The overall problem is many people feel they must make groups that are exclusive if only to give value to themselves. Or to take it a step beyond that, to make themselves feel better about who they are at the expense of others. Thus, some, like Michael, will say "It's not the fault of men" that there aren't a lot of women in tech.

If you think about what Arrington's saying in depth, it's an ugly gatekeeper mentality: "I'm the person who has helped to set the bar for who gets in and it's that you must have a good idea or product. It's not that your female or black or whatever."


The first order of business is to admit our biases. The second order of business is to speak frankly, which works back to the first order.

A friend of mine in Oakland politics and legal circles, a mentor who's white, said it best long ago: white people don't like to be considered racist (or for that matter sexist). It's a fear. So sometimes we may replace that idea with some other manufactured issue about a person of color."

So, while the real problem may be that while the man has an issue that's racist or sexist, it may be covered by another assertion that effectively works to shift the blame to the victim: thus we have Michael's idea that it's the fault of women that there aren't a lot of women in tech.

Changing The Ratio Means Changing Ourselves

You can't change society without changing how people think. For example, the "Women In Tech" panel should be more racially diverse than it is. Then it means the very people raising that issue of sexism aren't themselves racist.

(And here, an aside. To be racist or sexist is to put down a person because of their race or sex. It's not being aware of race or racial divisions or sex and issues of sexism. People who claim one's being racist or sexist by talking about race and sex are just playing a nutty game.  The end result is to stop you from pointing out the problem.)

If the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Women In Tech Panel that meets on Tuesday doesn't talk about the need for everyone to think in a diverse way, then the panel's a failure.

Also, Michael Arrington himself should moderate the panel. If he doesn't, it means he's running away from an issue he's made himself part of and in a way signaling that the whole panel's not really one to be taken seriously.  

Here's hoping he doesn't do that.
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